Why Does Air Travel Make You Tired

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As someone who has traveled by air multiple times, I have always wondered why flying makes me so tired. It’s not just the physical exhaustion of navigating busy airports and sitting in cramped seats for hours on end.

Even after a short flight, I often feel drained and lethargic for hours afterwards. So what is it about air travel that causes this fatigue?

In this article, we’ll explore some of the reasons why flying can leave you feeling exhausted and rundown. From disruptions to your body’s natural rhythms to changes in cabin pressure and air quality, there are several factors that contribute to post-flight fatigue.

By understanding these factors, you can take steps to minimize their impact and arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and energized. So let’s dive in!

Understanding Circadian Rhythm

Your body has a natural internal clock, known as circadian rhythm, which can be disrupted by changes in time zones during air travel and leave you feeling fatigued. This internal clock regulates your sleep-wake cycle, hormone production, and other important bodily functions.

When you travel across different time zones, your circadian rhythm is thrown off balance as your body tries to adjust to the new schedule. Jet lag occurs when there is a mismatch between your internal clock and the external environment. For example, if you travel from New York to London, which is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, it will take some time for your body to adjust to the new time zone.

Your biological clock may still be telling you that it’s midnight while local time in London may be 5 am. This can cause feelings of fatigue during the day and difficulty sleeping at night. In addition to jet lag, disruptions in circadian rhythm can also lead to other health problems such as indigestion and mood swings.

It’s important to give yourself enough time to adjust after a long flight so that your body can catch up with the new schedule. By understanding how circadian rhythm works and taking steps to help regulate it during air travel, we can minimize the effects of jet lag on our bodies and enjoy our travels without feeling exhausted.

As we know now about how changes in time zones disrupt our internal clocks during air travel and cause jet lag or other health problems like indigestion or mood swings, let’s dive into another aspect – cabin pressure changes – that affects us while flying.

Effects of Cabin Pressure Changes

Feeling a bit drowsy after your flight? It could be due to the changes in cabin pressure that affect your body.

When you’re up in the air, the cabin is pressurized to simulate an altitude of around 8,000 feet. This means there’s less oxygen available for your body to take in, and it has to work harder to get what it needs. As a result, you may feel more tired or fatigued than usual.

The changes in cabin pressure can also affect your circadian rhythm and disrupt your sleep patterns. Your body naturally produces melatonin at night to help regulate sleep, but the lack of natural light on a plane can make it difficult for your body to know when it’s time to rest. Additionally, the noise and vibrations from the airplane can make it hard for some people to fall asleep or stay asleep during a flight.

Overall, the effects of cabin pressure changes on our bodies can contribute significantly to feeling tired or jet-lagged after a flight. However, this is just one factor among many that can influence how we feel post-flight – next we’ll explore how lack of fresh air and natural light play into this equation.

Lack of Fresh Air and Natural Light

You’re stuck in a metal tube without the refreshing breeze of fresh air or the warm embrace of natural light, leaving you feeling like a wilted flower after a long flight. The lack of fresh air and natural light on an airplane can take a toll on your body’s circadian rhythm.

It’s no secret that our bodies are wired to function best with exposure to natural light, which helps regulate our sleep-wake cycles. Without it, we may feel groggy and disoriented. Furthermore, the recycled air in an airplane cabin can also contribute to fatigue.

The dryness of the cabin air can cause dehydration, leading to feelings of lethargy and headaches. Stale or stuffy air can also make it difficult for passengers to breathe properly, causing them to feel fatigued and irritable. To combat these effects while flying, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during your flight.

You can also try bringing along a small portable fan or eye mask to help simulate the feeling of fresh air and keep your circadian rhythm in check. And don’t forget about getting up from your seat regularly and stretching your legs – movement is key in keeping blood flowing throughout your body and reducing feelings of fatigue.


Staying hydrated is crucial during flights, as the dry cabin air can lead to dehydration and leave you feeling drained. The low humidity in the cabin causes moisture to evaporate from your skin and respiratory tract at a faster rate than usual, leading to dehydration. This can also cause symptoms like dry mouth, fatigue, headaches, and even dizziness.

It’s important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine can also help reduce the risk of dehydration. You may want to bring an empty refillable water bottle through security checkpoints so that you can fill it up once you get past TSA.

Dehydration not only makes you feel tired but it can also affect your mood, cognitive function, and overall health. By staying hydrated during flights, you can avoid these negative effects and arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready for whatever comes next.

However, even with proper hydration levels maintained throughout a flight, mental fatigue still creeps in due to various reasons which we will discuss further below.

Mental Fatigue

If you’re not careful, the mental strain of flying can leave you feeling drained and exhausted, so it’s important to take steps to combat mental fatigue. One way to do this is to engage in activities that stimulate your mind during the flight. This could mean bringing a book or puzzle to work on, listening to music or podcasts, or even striking up a conversation with your seatmate. By keeping your brain active, you’ll be less likely to succumb to the mental fatigue that often accompanies air travel.

Another strategy for combating mental fatigue while flying is to get plenty of rest before your trip. Lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to exhaustion and cognitive decline during long flights. If possible, try to adjust your schedule leading up to the trip so that you’re getting enough restful sleep each night. Additionally, taking short catnaps during the flight can help refresh your mind and keep you alert.

Finally, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the flight in order to combat both physical and mental fatigue. Dehydration can exacerbate feelings of tiredness and confusion, making it harder for you to think clearly and stay focused on tasks such as filling out customs forms or navigating through unfamiliar airports. Drinking plenty of water throughout the flight will help keep you energized and mentally sharp as you make your way toward your final destination – which brings us into our next topic: jet lag.

Jet Lag

When flying across time zones, jet lag can leave you feeling disoriented and drained, making it difficult to enjoy your trip to the fullest. Jet lag is caused by a disruption in our circadian rhythm, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle.

When we travel across multiple time zones, our internal clock becomes desynchronized with the external environment, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and digestive problems. The severity of jet lag depends on several factors, including the number of time zones crossed and the direction of travel.

It takes longer for our body to adjust when traveling eastward compared to westward because we are essentially losing time when traveling eastwards. For example, if you fly from Los Angeles to New York (eastward), you will experience more severe jet lag than if you were flying from New York to Los Angeles (westward).

There are several ways that can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with jet lag, such as getting plenty of rest before your flight, staying hydrated during your flight, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Additionally, gradually adjusting your sleeping schedule a few days prior to your trip can also help minimize the effects of jet lag.

By taking these steps, you can arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready for adventure!

Conclusion and Recap

Well, congratulations on making it to the end of this informative article! You’ve now got a better understanding of jet lag and how to combat its pesky symptoms.

Remember, taking care of yourself before and during your trip can make all the difference in ensuring you have an enjoyable and energizing adventure. So go forth and conquer those time zones like the savvy traveler you are!

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences jet lag differently. Some people may feel tired for days after a long flight, while others may adjust quickly. The best way to combat jet lag is by preparing your body beforehand with good sleep habits, staying hydrated during the flight, and adjusting your sleep schedule according to your destination’s time zone.

In conclusion, air travel can often leave us feeling tired due to jet lag. However, with proper preparation and self-care, we can minimize its effects on our bodies. By following healthy habits such as staying hydrated and getting ample rest before travel, we can ensure that we arrive at our destination feeling refreshed and ready for whatever adventures await us.

So pack your bags and get ready for an energizing journey ahead!


In conclusion, air travel can be exhausting for a variety of reasons. Our bodies are programmed to follow a natural sleep-wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm, which can be disrupted by changes in time zones and cabin pressure. Additionally, the lack of fresh air and natural light on planes can contribute to feelings of fatigue and dehydration.

Furthermore, mental fatigue is another factor that can leave us feeling drained after a flight. The constant noise and movement on board, combined with the stress of navigating through airports and security checkpoints, can take a toll on our mental energy levels. All these factors contribute to jet lag – an anachronism that has become synonymous with post-flight exhaustion.

Overall, understanding the causes of air travel fatigue is important for mitigating its effects. Strategies such as staying hydrated, getting some fresh air during layovers, and adjusting your sleep schedule before departure may help alleviate some of these symptoms. By taking care of our physical and mental health before, during, and after flights, we can make traveling more enjoyable while minimizing the impact it has on our well-being.

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